World Bulletin/News Desk
U.S.-led air strikes hit ISIL positions around the Syrian border town of Kobani on Friday in an apparent bid to pave the way for heavily-armed Kurdish peshmerga forces to enter from neighbouring Turkey.
The predominantly Kurdish town, besieged for more than 40 days, has become the focus of a global war against the insurgents, who have captured expanses of Iraq and Syria.
The siege of Kobani -- known in Arabic as Ayn al-Arab -- has turned into a test of the U.S.-led coalition's ability to stop ISIL's advance, with weeks of air strikes so far failing to break the insurgents' stranglehold.
Kobani's defenders, outgunned by the militants, are hoping the arrival of peshmerga forces from Iraqi Kurdistan with badly-needed weapons including cannon and truck-mounted machine-guns will help them turn the tide.
An advance guard of 10 peshmerga briefly entered Kobani on Thursday to discuss a joint strategy with leaders of the YPG, the main Syrian Kurdish armed group defending the town.
Armoured vehicles came and went from a former cotton processing warehouse near the Turkish border town of Suruc on Friday, where the wider contingent of around 150 peshmerga fighters were preparing for their deployment.
Tankers from the convoy emerged from the compound, guarded by Turkish security forces, to fill up at a local fuel station.
"For the past 15 days, ISIL has been attacking to try to take control of the border gate, including with car bombs. But we are resisting," said Enver Muslim, the top administrative official in the Kobani district.
"While the peshmerga convoy passes, U.S. jets will be overhead and warplanes from the coalition ... will be flying over Kobani to ensure their security," he told Reuters by phone.
Around 200 fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) - an umbrella term for the dozens of armed groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - have also entered Kobani from Turkey to support the struggle against ISIL.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday preliminary information indicated that at least 21 ISIL members were killed in coalition air strikes around Kobani, including a Danish man.
A local journalist in the town said there had been several air strikes overnight and a Reuters correspondent saw one early on Friday to the east of Kobani.
U.S. Central Command said on Thursday there had been 10 strikes near Kobani since the previous day, hitting two small insurgent units and destroying seven fighting positions and five buildings.
The peshmerga were given a heroes' welcome as their convoy of jeeps and flatbed trucks crossed Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast this week, making their way towards Kobani from their base in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region.
It is unclear whether the small but heavily armed contingent will be enough to swing the battle, but the deployment is a potent display of unity between Kurdish groups that more often seek to undermine each other.
Syria responded to the arrival of the peshmerga by condemning Turkey for allowing foreign fighters and "terrorists" to enter Syria in a violation of its sovereignty. Its foreign ministry described the move as a "disgraceful act".
Turkey, which is a staunch backer of the moderate rebels fighting Assad in the Syrian civil war, dismissed the comments.
But Ankara has made clear it will not send troops into Syria and has been a reluctant member of the U.S.-led coalition, insisting that any military strategy should also include the removal of Assad from power.
Ankara also fears Syria's Kurds will exploit the chaos by following their brethren in Iraq and seeking to carve out an independent state in northern Syria, emboldening Kurdish militants in Turkey and derailing a fragile peace process.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged on Thursday that Assad may be benefiting from U.S. attacks on ISIL fighters in his country, although he added that U.S. policy still supported Assad's removal from power.Last Mod: 31 Ekim 2014, 14:31